Aggression Modification

never tell a dog off for growling

My first choice with most clients is this: changing the dogs’ opinion of each other through counterconditioning and desensitization (CC&D).

CC&D for intra-pack aggression involves changing your dogs’ association with each other from negative to positive. The easiest way to give most dogs a positive association is with very high-value, really yummy treats. I like to use chicken – canned, baked, or boiled, since most dogs love chicken and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie food.
Here’s how the CC&D process works:

1. Determine the distance at which your dogs can be in each other’s presence and be alert or wary but not extremely fearful or aroused. This is called the threshold distance. If one dog has a greater threshold hold distance than the other (often the case), work at the greater distance.

2. With you holding Dog A on leash, have your helper appear with Dog B at threshold distance “X.” The instant your dog sees the other, start feeding bits of chicken, non-stop. Your helper will feed chicken to her dog, too, the instant he notices your dog.

3. After several seconds, have the helper step out of sight with Dog B, and you both stop feeding chicken.

4. Keep repeating steps 1-3 until the sight of the other dog at distance “X” consistently causes both dogs to look at their handlers with a happy smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is the physical presentation of the dogs’ conditioned emotional response (CER); each dog’s association with the other at threshold distance “X” is now positive, so they can deliberately look at you to get their chicken, rather than staying intensely focused on each other.

5. Now you need to increase the intensity of the stimulus by increasing the length of time Dog B stays in sight. Continue to feed chicken when they are in view of each other, occasionally pausing to let them look at each other again, and immediately feeding chicken when they do.
6. When length of time seems to make no difference to either dog – you’re getting a consistent “Yay, where’s my chicken?” response regardless of how long Dog B stays in view, increase the intensity again, this time by increasing Dog B’s movement. Have the handler walk back and forth with her dog, still at distance “X,” slowly at first, then with more energy, even adding in some other behaviors such as sit, down, and roll over.

7. Now you’re ready to start decreasing distance by moving Dog A a little closer to the location where the Dog B will appear. When you obtain consistent CERs from both dogs at each new distance you can decrease the distance a little more, until both dogs are happy to be very near each other.

8. Then return to your original threshold distance and increase intensity stimulus by having Dog B move around more and more, as you gradually decrease distance and obtain CERs from both dogs along the way, until they are delighted to be near each other.

9. Now go back to your starting distance and increase intensity again, by having both dogs move more naturally as the distance decreases, offering CERs at each new distance before you come any closer, until they can be within six feet of each other, moving around, still relaxed and happy about chicken.

10. Finally, find ways for your dogs to engage separately in mutually enjoyable activities together. If they both enjoy car rides, take them for a drive, but be sure they are seat-belted or crated far enough apart to avoid any tension. If they love hiking, take them on “parallel” walks, one with you, one with your training partner, with humans between them at first, and eventually with dogs between humans when you’re sure their emotions are appropriate. Parallel swims, for dogs who love the water, can work well too.

When you feel the dogs are ready to finally interact with each other again, be careful not to undo all your hard work. You might first let them greet each other through a barrier, such as a baby gate or exercise pen.

Changing Bad Behavior

It can be frustrating when your dog misbehaves. A dog’s actions often don’t make sense to humans, and it can be hard to understand why a dog behaves in a destructive fashion.

Let’s discuss the causes of bad behavior and methods for correcting it.

Changing Bad Behavior

If you have a dog that is behaving badly, you need to correct the problem, but to do that, you need to understand your dog’s behavior. First and foremost, remember that dogs are pack animals and your dog sees themselves as part of your pack. If you allow your dog to continue their detrimental behavioral, they will think that they are the alpha dog, and behavioral problems will persist.

How many times have you uttered the words, “No! Bad dog!” only to find that it has no effect on your dog’s behavior? That’s because punishment doesn’t work. Most of the time, dogs don’t understand what they’re being punished for.

Changing dog behavioral problems isn’t quick and easy; it can take weeks or months to achieve. The most important thing to remember is that any attention rewards your dog, regardless of whether that attention is good or bad. If you are trying to change levels of dog obedience, always remember that punishment doesn’t work.

The key to changing behavior is not to allow your dog to be rewarded for it. Instead of yelling, give your dog the chance to succeed, and reward them when they triumph. For instance, if your dog is jumping up, tell them to lie down—and when they do, give them a treat. This is the type of dog training that will eventually stop obedience issues.

Also remember the old adage, “a tired dog is a good dog.” It’s true! A tired dog is less likely to exhibit behavioral problems, so make sure that your pup gets plenty of opportunities to run and play. Exercise is important for all dogs, as it helps them use pent up energy, so they’re less likely to direct that energy toward unwanted behaviors.

 

What Is a Dog Behaviorist?

If you are having trouble with a misbehaving dog, one option to get them back on the right track is to consult a dog behaviorist. These specialists try to find triggers for a dog’s mischief by examining their environment and noting factors that may lead to bad behavior.

 

Dog Behavior Training Tips

Did you know that behavioral problems are the number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters or euthanized?

 

Here are some training tips for common behavioral issues:

Inappropriate Chewing. Dogs explore their environment with their mouths, so chewing comes naturally. Chewing on its own is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can help relieve boredom and stress, and it can help keep your dog’s teeth clean. The key is to get your dog to chew appropriate items. So, if you find your dog chewing on your shoe, redirect their chewing elsewhere, like to a chew toy or rope. It is also important to praise your dog for selecting the appropriate chew toy.

Digging in the Yard. The activity of digging is extremely rewarding to dogs. Your dog may dig because they caught a scent in the air or simply want to release some energy. If you don’t want your dog to dig holes in your yard, redirect their digging activities. Give your dog a sandbox or section off a portion of the yard where it is okay to dig. Reward your dog with treats and toys to make this new digging spot more exciting than their previous point of interest.

Begging at the Table. Consistency is the key to stopping poor behavior, so it is important to make sure that no one in the family feeds the dog at the table. Try to distract your dog from your family’s mealtime by giving them an appropriate activity, like enjoying a food puzzle.

Barking at the Doorbell. Your dog might bark at the doorbell because they are anxious or excited about visitors. Some dogs believe that their barking is what makes you open the door, so by barking they are attempting to train you. Redirect your dog’s attention from the doorbell, and try to get them to sit quietly on the doormat and wait for you to open the door.

Urine Marking. Dogs urinate on different items and places to mark their territory or to leave messages for other dogs. When you catch your dog urine marking in the house, interrupt the activity with a “no” and take them outside immediately. When you get outside, make sure to reward or praise your dog for urinating outdoors. Also, to prevent your dog from continuing to urinate indoors in the same spot, use an enzyme cleaner to remove the scent.

How to Stop Your Dog’s Annoying Humping Behavior

How to Stop Your Dog’s Annoying Humping Behavior
Dog humping is mostly triggered by stress. You can eliminate the stress and modify your dog’s behavior with these simple tips.

Female dog humping pillow
A client’s 13-year-old Pomeranian, Scooter, loves to hump his purple stuffed bear. We find it harmless, so we don’t try to stop him, though, honestly, he doesn’t get that many opportunities to practice the behavior. His intimate bear-time is limited because their Corgi, Lucy, shreds stuffed animals in the blink of an eye, so Scooter only gets his bear  when Lucy isn’t around, which isn’t all that often. But there are many dogs whose mounting behavior is more disturbing – because it embarrasses their humans, offends observers, or worse, distresses the person or other animal who is the unfortunate humpee of the moment.

Scooter’s purple bear could care less. Other dogs, and humans who are the target of the behavior, may be intimidated, antagonized, or even injured by the overbearing attentions of a dog dedicated to mounting. I was once on the receiving end of a Boxer’s persistent mounting while conducting a behavior assessment at a shelter. This dog was so big and strong that he actually was able to pull me to the floor of the kennel – a frightening and potentially very dangerous situation, had there not been other staff there to rescue me. And I don’t get taken down by a dog easily!

Dog Humping isn’t About Sex
Mounting behavior is most commonly not about sex. Oh sure, if you have a female in season and an unsterilized male dog mounting her, then yes, it is clearly about reproduction. But in today’s polite society, many dogs are spayed and neutered, and unspayed females in season are usually kept safely at home by her responsible owners.
Still, it’s common to see dogs mounting other dogs, humans, toys, other objects, and even “air-humping” – seemingly having their way with some invisible, imaginary subject. And it’s not limited to male dogs; female dogs also hump objects, people, and other dogs.

Like many canine behaviors that we humans find annoying, inconvenient, or embarrassing, dog humping is a perfectly normal behavior. And like other such annoying, inconvenient, and embarrassing behaviors, it’s perfectly reasonable for us to ask our dogs to stop, or to at least reserve the behavior for times or places that are considered more appropriate by the human family members.

So why do dogs hump? Reproduction aside, the most common reason dogs hump things is in response to stress, anxiety, and/or excitement. A trainer friend of mine tells of a friend coming to visit – a friend who lives far away, visits rarely, and who is well-loved by my trainer friend’s dog, a pit bull-mix. Roscoe was so deliriously happy about the friend’s visit that he made a full air-humping circuit of the living room before he could settle down enough to greet the guest politely. Our first Pomeranian, Dusty, would mount the sofa cushions if I took the other dogs out and left him inside. The stress of being left behind triggered the cushion-humping.

The stress and excitement of meeting other dogs is a classic cause of mounting, and one of the reasons you are highly likely to see the behavior on display in dog parks. Brief bouts that involve mounting of other dogs in canine social interactions – as long as they don’t lead to bloodletting or oppression of the mountee – are acceptable. Mounting of human body parts is not acceptable, nor is mounting that leads to dog fights.

There can also be underlying medical causes of canine mounting and masturbation. These can include urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and allergies that cause itching of sensitive body parts. In these cases, the dog is merely trying to relieve the discomfort caused by the medical issue. We had an allergy-prone Scottish Terrier who, in the middle of allergy flare-ups, would do push-ups on the living room carpet to scratch his itchy private parts.

Attention-seeking can be yet another reason why dogs hump. Some dogs have learned that a really good way to get their humans to engage with them is to climb on for a little ride. Remember that for many attention-starved dogs, negative attention (“Bad dog, stop that!”) is still better than no attention at all. And if some humans find the behavior amusing, positively reinforcing it with laughter and encouragement, the behavior is all the more likely to continue.

How To Stop Your Dog’s Humping
So what do you do with a dog who mounts inappropriately? The first step is a trip to your veterinarian to rule out – or treat – any medical conditions that may be causing or exacerbating the behavior.

Meanwhile, do your best to manage your dog’s environment to prevent, or at least minimize, the behavior. If he aggravates other dogs at the dog park, limit his social engagements until the behavior is under control. If he persists in annoying your guests, keep him leashed, crated, behind a baby gate, or in another room when company visits, so he can’t practice the unwanted behavior.

The longer your dog has practiced his mounting behavior, the harder it will be to change. It’s logical that the sooner you intervene in your dog’s unacceptable mounting, the better your chances for behavior modification success.

Neutering is another obvious first step. A 1990 study found a 50 percent improvement in mounting behavior in 60 percent of dogs, and a 90 percent improvement in as many as 40 percent of dogs following castration. (While both male and female dogs may engage in mounting, it is more often a male dog behavior problem than a female one.)

A 1976 study determined that within 72 hours of surgery, the bulk of hormones have left the dog’s system. Since mounting is partially a learned behavior as well as hormone-driven, the extent to which neutering will help will be determined at least in part by how long the dog has been allowed to practice the behavior. Neutered dogs may still hump after surgery, but the odds are greatly reduced.

dog humping behavior

Female dog humping human
Dog-on-Dog Mounting
You will need to work harder to convince your adult, well-practiced dog than a young, inexperienced pup to quit climbing on other dogs. Additionally, there’s more potential for aggression with a mature dog if the recipient of unwanted attentions objects to being mounted. With both young and mature dogs, you can use time-outs to let your dog know that mounting behavior makes all fun stop. A tab (a short, 4- to 6-inch piece of leash) or a drag-line (a 4- to 6-foot light nylon cord) attached to your dog’s collar can make enforcement of time-outs faster and more effective (and safer) when you have to separate dogs.

Set up your dog for a play date with an understanding friend who has a tolerant dog. Try to find a safely fenced but neutral play yard, so that home team advantage doesn’t play a role. If a neutral yard isn’t available, the friend’s yard is better than your own, and outdoors is definitely preferable to indoors.

When you turn the dogs out together, watch yours closely. It’s a good idea to have some tools on hand to break up a fight, should one occur. If there’s no sign of mounting, let them play. Be ready to intervene if you see the beginning signs of mounting behavior in your dog. This usually occurs as play escalates and arousal increases.

When you see the first glimmerings of mounting behavior, try subtle body-blocking. Every time your dog approaches the other with obvious mounting body postures, step calmly in front of your dog to block him. If you’re particularly coordinated, you may be able to simply lean your body forward or thrust out a hip or knee to send him the message that the fun’s about to stop. This is more likely to work with the younger dog, who is less intense about his intent to mount. Be sure not to intervene if your dog appears to be initiating appropriate canine play.

If body blocking doesn’t work, as gently and unobtrusively as possible, grasp the dog’s tab or light line, give a cheerful “Oops!”, then happily announce, “Time out!” and lead your dog to a quiet corner of the play yard. (The “Oops!” is what’s called a “no reward marker – sort of like the opposite of a reward marker such as the click of a clicker. It lets your dog know that the thing he is doing at that moment is not going to be rewarded.) Sit with him there until you can tell that his arousal level has diminished, and then release him to return to his playmate. If necessary, have your friend restrain her dog at the same time so he doesn’t come pestering yours during the time-out.

Keep in mind that the earlier you intervene in the mounting behavior sequence, the more effective the intervention will be, since your dog hasn’t had time to get fully engaged in the behavior. It’s vitally important that you stay calm and cheerful about the modification program. Yelling at or physically correcting your dog increases the stress level in the environment, making more mounting behavior – and a fight, or aggression toward you – more likely to occur.

With enough time-out repetitions, most dogs will give up the mounting, at least for the time being. With an older dog for whom the habit is well ingrained, you may need to repeat your time-outs with each new play session, and you may need to restrict his playmates to those who won’t take offense to his persistently rude behavior.

With a pup or juvenile, the behavior should extinguish fairly easily with repeated time-outs, especially if he is neutered. Just keep an eye out for “spontaneous recovery,” when a behavior you think has been extinguished returns unexpectedly. Quick re-intervention with body blocks or time-outs should put the mounting to rest again.

Dog-on-Human Mounting
This embarrassing behavior is handled much the same way as dog-dog mounting. One difference is that you must educate your guests as to how they should respond if your dog attempts his inappropriate behavior. Another is that some dogs will become aggressive if you physically try to remove them from a human leg or other body part. It works best to set up initial training sessions with dog-savvy friends who agree to be human mounting posts for training purposes, rather than relying on “real” guests to respond promptly and appropriately, at least until your dog starts to get the idea.

For your average, run-of-the-mill human mounting, ask your guests to immediately stand up and walk away if your dog attempts to get too cozy. Explain that it is not sexual behavior, but rather attention-seeking, and anything they try to do to talk the dog out of it or physically restrain him will only reinforce the behavior and make it worse. You can also use a light line here, to help extricate your friends from your dog’s embrace, and to give him that oh-so-useful time out.

If the behavior is too disruptive, you can tether your dog in the room where you are all socializing, so he still gets to be part of the social experience without repeatedly mugging your guests.

If your dog becomes aggressive when thwarted, he should be shut safely away in his crate when company comes. Social hour is not an appropriate time to work on any aggressive behavior; it puts your guests at risk, and prevents all of you from being able to relax and enjoy the occasion.

If your dog becomes growly, snappy, or otherwise dangerous when you try to remove him from a human, you are dealing with serious behavior challenge. You would be wise to work with a qualified, positive reinforcement-based behavior consultant who can help you stay safe while you modify this behavior. The program remains essentially the same – using time-outs to take away the fun every time the behavior happens, but may also involve the use of muzzles, and perhaps pharmaceutical intervention with your veterinarian’s assistance, if necessary.

Dog-on-Object Mounting
Dog owners are often surprised to discover that some dogs will masturbate. Our diminutive Dusty, pillager of the sofa pillows, discovered early in life that if he approaches someone who was sitting with their legs crossed, the person’s foot was just the right height for him to to stand over a raised human foot and engage in a little self-pleasuring. As soon as we realized what he was doing, we squelched that behavior by removing his opportunity; we’d put both feet on the floor and that was that.

There’s really no harm in canine masturbation, as long as the objects used are reasonably appropriate (i.e., dog toys, as opposed to your bed pillows!), and it doesn’t become obsessive. Removing an inappropriate object or resorting to cheerful time-outs can redirect the behavior to objects that are more acceptable, such as a stuffed dog toy.

If your dog practices the behavior to the degree that is appears obsessive – a not uncommon problem in zoo animals, but rare in dogs – then you may need some behavior modification help. A behavior is generally considered obsessive when it is causes harm to the organism or interferes with his ability to lead a normal life. For example, if your dog is rubbing himself raw on the Berber carpet, or spends 20 hours a day having fun in the bedroom, you’re looking at obsessive behavior.

There are behavior modification programs that can help with canine obsessive-compulsive disorders, and they often require pharmaceutical intervention, especially if the obsession is well-developed.

The “Say Please” Program
In addition to specific behavior modification programs for mounting behavior, a “Say Please” program can be an important key to your ultimate success. No, we’re not suggesting you allow your dog to do inappropriate mounting if he says “please” first; a Say Please program requires that he perform a polite behavior, such as “sit,” before he gets any good stuff (like dinner, treats, or petting, or going outside). This helps create structure in his world and reminds him that you are in control of the good stuff. Since a fair amount of mounting has to do with stress, and structure helps reduce stress, “Say Please” is right on target.

Eliminate Your Dog’s Stress
Because stress is a significant part of mounting behavior, the more stressors you can remove from your dog’s world, the better. Learn to recognize signs of stress in your dog and reduce the stressors in his life.

“Good Manners” classes are also of benefit. The better you and your dog can communicate with each other, the less stressful life is for both of you. If he’s trained to respond promptly to cues, you can use the technique of “asking for an incompatible behavior” to minimize mounting. If you see your dog approaching a guest with a gleam in his eye, your cue to “Go to your place!” or “Leave it!” will divert him. He can’t “Down” and mount a leg at the same time. Nor can he do push-ups on the rug if he is responding to your request to “Sit.”

If you start early and are consistent about reducing your dog’s stress, removing reinforcement for your dog’s inappropriate mounting, and reinforcing alternative/incompatible behaviors, chances are you can succeed in making the embarrassing behavior go away.

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8 Simple Rules of Dog Park Etiquette

grayscale photo of person wearing coat walks on snow
Photo by Kylie Flores on Pexels.com

Dog parks offer a way for owners to give their dogs the social interaction with other dogs that they crave (and need), while providing a fun place to get some great off-leash exercise.

But, dogs don’t always get along, and owners don’t always observe basic etiquette and safety guidelines.

Don’t assume that your dog is ready to mix and mingle at a dog park. First, can he handle being around other dogs? Second, do you know how to keep him from biting or being bitten by another dog?

To ensure you and your dog enjoy your next outing safely, here are eight simple rules of dog park etiquette.

 

  1. Recognize the Danger Signs

Before letting your dog off the leash at a dog park, be sure you know how to distinguish friendly dog behavior from threatening behavior. When you notice play is escalating into aggression, you need to be ready to take your dog out of the situation.

  1. Leave the Treats and Toys at Home

Dogs can become aggressive when they see something they want, or if another dog is trying to take their toy or treat. Only take these items if you are sure your dog will be far away from other dogs. Some parks ban toys and treats because they always pose a risk when they are present, so make sure you know the rules of the park you are visiting and be extra careful.

  1. Blow Off Some Steam First

It may seem like a good idea to take your dog to the park after he’s been cooped up all day, but this may be asking for trouble. Many dog owners view the park as the place for exercise. It’s understandable to think this way, but don’t make this mistake. Take your dog for a walk or play in the yard for a few minutes before heading to the park.

Dogs who have not had recent exercise will arrive at the park with too much excess energy, which often results in aggressive behavior toward other dogs and humans. An overly-aggressive dog, although he may be “only playing,” can cause fights or be viewed as prey by larger dogs if he is running around with too much frantic energy.

  1. Scope Out the Situation

When going to a park for the first time, it’s best to leave your dog in the car for a brief moment and assess the park before going inside. If you’re not driving, find a place to tether your dog for a few moments. If there are dogs behaving badly or small children that may bother your pup, you may reconsider taking your dog to that park.

  1. Don’t Bully or Be Bullied

Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and how other dogs are treating him. If another dog is being too rough, ask his owner to control him, then get your dog out of harm’s way. Make sure you are able to recognize when your own dog is being overly-aggressive, and be ready to take him away from other dogs.

If your dog lacks manners when meeting people and other animals, you might not want to take him to the dog park. If he has a tendency to charge up to, mount, or incessantly sniff other dogs, keep him away from the crowds.

  1. Lose the Hazardous Training Devices

Choke chains, harnesses, and prong collars should not be left on your dog when he’s playing in the park. Dogs nibble when they play, and the metal equipment can cause broken teeth or other injuries. Also, if a dog gets stuck in a harness, it can lead to a fight. Safe alternatives are breakaway nylon or leather collars.

  1. Don’t Bring Females in Heat, Unvaccinated Dogs, or Very Young Puppies

Make sure you recognize when your female dog is in heat, and don’t bring her to the dog park. This most often leads to fights among male dogs or aggression toward the female. Also, make sure your dogs are vaccinated so they don’t catch anything from other dogs. Puppies that are less than 12 weeks old should not go to dog parks either, because their immune systems are not strong enough to handle some of the germs circulating in the dog population.

  1. Be Careful With Small Dogs

A dog park can be a dangerous place for smaller dogs. Larger dogs sometimes see smaller ones as prey, especially if the little one is running around in a frantic prey-like manner. If a large dog is harassing your small one, don’t pick him up. This actually triggers a predator instinct in the large dog, and is likely to escalate the problem.

omg is that a new collar

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How and Why Dogs Play

Play, by definition, is fun. When play stops being fun it stops being play. Play is a pleasurable activity during which animals engage in behaviors that are not part of the immediate business of life, but rather are performed in mimicry, rehearsal or display. During play, dogs behave without real seriousness – running, jumping, chasing, mouthing, chewing, wrestling, biting, hiding and even humping. In play, all behaviors are a game to the players and are performed for fun. There is no hidden agenda.

shredding newspaper

Dogs have a unique gesture, the play bow, that signals “play mode.” The signal involves dogs going down on their elbows with their rear end elevated, tail raised and wagging. During such posturing, they have on their “play face,” with mouth open and ears pricked. They may bark to signal their wish to solicit another’s involvement, and may approach or withdraw from a potential play partner while pouncing and leaping about.

Play is usually, but not always, between two or more individuals. Sometimes dogs without partners will play by themselves. Solitary play is a rather sad event and may even have unwanted long-term repercussions.

 

Why Do Dogs Play?

It has been suggested that play is a necessary part of growing up for all young social animals and that without it they may not develop to their full potential. This does not appear to be the case, as animals deprived of play for reasons of sickness or ill health grow up to be behaviorally indistinguishable from their play-satiated peers. This is not to say that “players” may not develop more rapidly than their play-deprived peers, just that the end result often turns out to be more or less the same.

 

If play is not absolutely imperative for normal development to develop, what good is it? Well, play is a role-playing rehearsal for adult behaviors and as such will prepare a youngster for what lies ahead. During play, pups exercise their bodies and minds, making them healthier and smarter for it. In nature, this may give players the edge over their unrehearsed counterparts who may be still struggling to learn the Ps and Qs of canine etiquette or the rudiments of the chase. Note that different types of play unfold in parallel with sensitive periods of learning, so that play learning is most efficient. Mouthiness is first seen at 3 weeks of age, right after the transitional period. Then come play solicitation, play fighting, scruff holding, deference, and finally sexual play.

All these forms of play start in the socialization period between 3 and 6 weeks of age and they intensify as the pup approaches adolescence. Object play, chewing and chasing objects, occurs a little later, becoming most intense after about 16 to 20 weeks of age.

Types of Ways Dogs Play

Social Dog Play

Social skills are honed by playful interactions between individuals. One pup may jump on another pup, pin him, and then mouth him around the head and neck. If the pressure of the pup’s bite exceeds tolerable limits, the temporary underdog will roll over, yelp or run away. Both parties learn an important lesson. The biter learns to inhibit his bite if he wishes the fun to continue, and the pup that is bitten learns that deference or escape will cause the unpleasant experience to come to an end. Of course, sudden role reversal is also a feature of play, with provisional subordinates suddenly becoming pursuers and “attackers.” A happy medium is reached when truly dominant dogs learn their gift for mastery, and subordinates learn how to avoid or deter unpleasant exchanges. This dynamic may explain why dominant dogs are less successful than their subordinates in soliciting play. Aloof pups that don’t play much, and orphaned pups, often grow up to be socially inappropriate. In repelling borders, they may send a message that is too profound, failing to inhibit their bite – and they may not be able to deliver convincing messages of deference.

Sexual Dog Play

This mostly takes the form of mounting, clasping and pelvic thrusting (“humping”). The lack of seriousness is indicated by the somewhat haphazard orientation of this behavior, initially. Male and female pups are equally likely to be targeted, or in their absence, peoples’ legs and cushions may have to suffice. Dogs that have had no humping experience will not be as immediately successful in mating as previously rehearsed counterparts. Also, dogs without playmates may imprint on inanimate objects or human appendages as substrates for humping behavior, and become an embarrassment to own if not neutered. In addition, the relationship between humping and dominance must be born in mind if the correct human-companion animal relationship is to be preserved.

 Oral Dog Play

Young puppies have a biological need to mouth and chew malleable objects. It seems to give them almost undue pleasure. Unlike social and sexual play, this type of play does not require a partner, though socially-testing tug-of-war games sometimes evolve as a spin off. Of course, by teething time, at around 6 to 8 months of age, object chewing becomes an extremely useful adjuvant to assist with tooth loosening and dental eruption, and may even provide some relief from gingival discomfort.

Predatory Dog Play

Chasing moving objects is a sure way of fine-tuning predatory skills. Ball chasing, stick chasing, and leaf chasing, are all ways in which this play form is expressed. With appropriate opportunity and guidance, pups will learn the ins and outs of the chase – how to accelerate, turn on a dime, brake suddenly, and how to pounce with accuracy and alacrity. If deprived of play predatory opportunities, dogs may resort to vacuum chasing of imaginary creatures, may pace, circle, or chase their own tails. This is a sad state of affairs.

Playtime as Dogs Age

In many species, like wolves, play is pretty much restricted to juveniles and adolescents. Adults do not normally have the time or energy to waste in such trivial pursuits. Domestic dogs, however, seem to be enduringly suspended in a juvenile frame of mind. Thus play is not something they outgrow but rather an activity they keenly pursue throughout their lives. Unhealthy and unhappy dogs do not play, so play serves as a barometer of well being, indicating that a dog is well fed, in good health, and content. Dogs, like humans, do not play when they’re sad or distressed. Dogs that do not seem to enjoy playing should be carefully scrutinized to make sure all is well in their lives.

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What Is Your Dog Saying?

A Key to Canine Body Language

adorable animal canine cold

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.

 

Signals Dogs Use to Communicate

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

close up photo of brownish labrador retriever puppy

Face. Although the dog’s facial muscles are not as refined as a human’s, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.

Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it’s particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.

Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.

Ears. The dog’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signaling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.

Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.

Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.

barking together

 

The Dog Nanny website

 

 

 

 

Dog Posture Speaks Volumes – What Your Dog is Saying

When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their littermates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

Normal posture. The dog appears alert with head held high. His tail moves freely. His jaw is relaxed.

Invitation to play. The dog happily signals his desire to play by wagging his tail and dipping down into a “play bow.” His front legs are in a crouch and his backbone swoops up, leaving his rear haunches high. His head is held up expectantly to capture your attention. He may raise a front leg or lean to one side with his head.

Submission. The dog crouches down further and still appears relaxed. He may lift a front foot as in a play invitation, but his ears are back and his tail is down. He may yawn, scratch, or sneeze, which is meant to calm him and the dogs or people confronting him.

Fearful aggression. A dog who is afraid tenses his body and holds his tail rigid, though it may be wagging. His rear legs are ready to run or spring. He bares his teeth, draws back his ears and the hair on his back stands on end. He growls or snarls constantly to warn off the subject of his fear.

Dominance aggression. Teeth bared, this dog stares you down and advances confidently with his tail wagging slowly and his ears in the forward (alert) position.

Total submission. The dog drops his tail and curls it between his legs. He drops his head to avoid eye contact. He rolls over on his side and bares his belly, with one hind leg raised and urinates. If he isn’t afraid, he’ll tilt his head up a bit and raise his ears to show trust.

Puppy Nipping and Chewing: How to Stop the Biting That Hurts

Nipping & Chewing

Puppy Nipping and Chewing: How to Stop the Biting That Hurts

Love that new puppy, but don’t love what she is doing to your sofa, sneakers, or fingers? Then it’s time to intervene. While nipping and chewing are natural behaviours that occur when a puppy is between two and six months of age, they can be stopped!

Puppies will teethe, just like human infants. Chewing and nipping is investigative behaviour. It is how they learn about their world…and it is completely normal. But it is important, to direct the puppy to chewing appropriate items.

Look for specially designed pet toys. Rubber toys that have an opening for food, such as Kong®, can keep a puppy happily occupied for a long time. Spay any and all none moveable on objects with a No Chew Spray (Bitter Apple works well), remember to SPRAY EVERY DAY.

upside down ddb

Dog Nanny Special Tip – Take any leftover Bones and place them in your crock pot with plain water, simmer over night, to get all that nice flavour out.  Soak a plain rope toy, in the now flavoured water, then put in a Ziploc bag and FREEZE.  Now you have a cold and crunchy toy your puppy will love to chew instead of you or your furniture.

Beware of items that may hide a choking danger. Don’t offer your pup anything with a squeaker that can be ripped out and swallowed.

Examine toys regularly for tears, breakage, or stuffing leaks.

Rotate toys. Puppies love novelty. Different items will help make playtime special.

As you would with a baby, supervise your puppy at all times.  If you can’t be with your dog, protect her in an exercise pen or crate. Puppy-proof your home.”

Put away items that you don’t want chewed or that could be harmful.

Install a safety lock on the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

Keep human snacks and candy out of reach. Remember: Chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Use Bitter Apple / Bitter Yuck / Fooey (brand names), sprays on objects you cannot put away.  Remember these sprays must be applied Daily, so that the object ALWAYS tastes bad.

 

When it’s more than play

Puppy biting and chewing are generally not aggressive. However, it is important to be aware that some puppies can be aggressive. If you have a puppy that seems deadly serious or is snarly or if you are afraid of the puppy, it is important to learn the reason. Videotape that behaviour or have The Dog Nanny make a personal house call to view & investigate the behaviour and it’s cause. If you are concerned about it, there may be a reason to be concerned.”

Puppies should remain with their litter until seven or eight weeks of age to learn how to communicate with other dogs. When they rough and tumble, they learn that they will have fun if they bite gently.

Reinforce positive play

To teach the puppy appropriate play behaviour, “hard biting should elicit a correction sound from a human companion, sending the message that this behaviour is unacceptable. Stop interacting with the puppy for a few seconds. You have removed the rewards (you and playing), and you are teaching bite inhibition.” This is best done between two and four months of age. “Only ever allow teeth touching only pressure of a bite you permit and add a cue before yelping to teach a signal to the dog.

“The only biting you should allow is soft biting on bare hands or clothed body parts.

Other biting, such as the lure of a pants leg or shoelace, can be handled by distractions such as throwing a toy or a simple clap. “Don’t engage the dog verbally. It reinforces the negative behaviour.” “Reinforce only the positive behaviour.” OR simply ignore the behaviour, no re-action from you is not fun and puppy will learn to get your attention a different way.

It is important to remember that as much fun as a new puppy may be, children and puppies should NEVER be left together unsupervised. Work with children to teach them how to teach the dog to play correctly. Hide-and-seek is a terrific beginning. It introduces the concepts of the “come” command. Teach children not to roughhouse or wrestle. Like a human baby, puppies get overtired and over stimulated. They need time to rest and calm down.   Always provide you puppy/dog with a safe zone, such as his/her crate, where they can get away from bothersome children.  Ensure all children know when the dog goes to their safe zone, they are off limits.

“Control the game, control the dog.”

 

 

The Dog Nanny

Is your dog bored? How can you tell?

Bored dogs are usually pretty easy to spot. They mope around the house and don’t seem to want to get up. Other times they pace frantically, panting and even drooling. Sometimes you can find them by following the trail of shredded papers, pillows, and shoes they leave in their wake, they jump at you, bark at you, whine/cry, Basically a Bored Dog Acts Out/Up.

Boredom can lead to a variety of problems such as inappropriate urination, destructive behaviours such as scratching, aggression, depression, lethargy, over-vocalization/crying, increased or decreased appetite, and sleeping more.

Dogs have a much better time of it these days. No longer do they have to while away hours in the doghouse outside; they are more often kept indoors and treated like family members. But, although we may have changed our attitude toward our pets, we have changed our lifestyles, too, and we are now less available.

Frequently both parents work away from home and the kids are at school. So, although dogs no longer have to battle the elements outside, they do have to contend with being home alone during the day, sometimes all day, with little to occupy their time. From the owner’s point of view, the home may be ideal: plush rugs, elegant furniture, and chic décor, but dogs do not appreciate such environmental refinement and would by far prefer to be socializing with people or other dogs, or chasing a blowing leaf outside. Like children, dogs have an agenda that is subtly different from that of adult humans, and have likes and dislikes that can be diametrically opposed.

Some “Type-B” personality dogs may nap during their owners’ absence, arising lazily with a yawn and stretch upon their return. Other more compulsive “Type-A” dogs may suffer extreme boredom and stress during their owners’ absence. The telltale signs are easy to see: the garbage can contents may be strewn across the floor, cupboard doors opened, food stores raided, paper or pillows shredded, and so on. While there is a well-known syndrome of separation anxiety, the bored dog scenario is distinct from separation anxiety and represents the sometimes ingenious attempts of a dog that is “bored out of his mind” to find something time-filling to do.

In attempting to distinguish between a dog with separation anxiety and one that is just bored you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you acquire your dog from a shelter or pound?
  • Has he had multiple owners?
  • Did you get him when he was over three months of age?
  • Is he a “Velcro dog”? (Does he follow you around constantly?)
  • Does he appear anxious as you prepare to depart?
  • Does he whine or bark after you have left?
  • Does he urinate or defecate ONLY in your absence?
  • Does he destroy things ONLY in your absence?
  • Does he refuse to eat when you are away?
  • Does he greet you over-exuberantly when you return?

    A score of five or more “yes” answers is highly suggestive of separation anxiety. If any doubt exists as to the precise cause of the dog’s unrest or agitation when you are away, a video recording will serve as the tiebreaker. Dogs with separation anxiety are visibly anxious, pacing, panting, and whining or barking, whereas dogs that are bored simply wander around searching for something to do. Also, they may get up and down frequently and act in an unsettled, restless way as if experiencing a dilemma (which they probably are).

    The key to managing an otherwise bored dog is “Environmental Enrichment” (the big E’s). Below is a list of measures that owners can employ to reduce their dog’s tedium during long stints home alone.

  1. Get a dog for your dog. Although getting a dog for your dog rarely works to improve separation anxiety, this can help your bored dog – as long as the two dogs get along. However, introducing an overly dominant, oppressive dog may have exactly the opposite effect. If in doubt, ask an expert to help you select the right dog for your dog and lean toward a younger individual and one of even temperament.

    2. Hire a dog walker. Most dogs really appreciate the lunchtime visits of a dog walker who provides a much welcome respite in the middle of an otherwise long day of nothing to do.

    3. Doggy day care. One better than a dog walker is doggy day care. The problem here is that sometimes it is expensive and that cheaper facility looks and smells dirty or the Daycare staff seem to lack those doggie communication skills, etc; Check out the day care center thoroughly as you would child day care for young children.

    4. Crates. Providing a dog with a crate gives him a room of his own, a place in which to hang out and to get away from it all. If you don’t provide a crate, most dogs will improvise, finding solitude under a table or bed or behind a couch. I think it is rarely, if ever, appropriate to shut a dog in his crate all day while you are away but an open crate is another matter.

    5. Food puzzles/sustained release food. Most people have developed the habit of feeding their dog before they leave in the morning. The dog wolfs down his food and then has nothing to do all day. It may be more appropriate to feed the dog as you leave and/or to arrange for the food to be discovered by the dog after you have left.

    6. Radio/TV. Many people already leave a radio or television on for their dog when they leave. The “white noise effect” does seem to have a soothing effect and thus may have some redeeming features. Think of it this way; any lilting/melodic sound (not “heavy metal”) or even just background gibberish is probably better than the sound of silence or a clock ticking on the mantelpiece. Most animals seem to prefer seeing images of other animals or nature programs.

    7. Room with a view. Some of the best visual enrichment that a “home alone dog” can enjoy is the “real TV” experience of observing the world outside through a window with a panoramic view.

    8. Transitional object. Some people report that leaving out an article of their apparel comforts their dog. The dog can then snuggle up to the item in their absence and be reminded of better times.

    9. Rotation of toys. Well-meaning owners leave toys out for their dog to play with, in their absence. This is a valuable enrichment strategy but will not work well unless the toys are interesting and novel. Toys that move or are good to chew are apparently the most fun and the way to keep them riveting is to rotate them so that they don’t lose their appeal.

    10. “A brain tired dog is a good dog.” You could also say, a happy dog. Exercise generates serotonin in the brain and thus has a calming and mood-stabilizing effect on man and beast. A dog that has had a good run for 20 to 30 minutes before the owner departs will be less anxious, more composed, and prepared for a little R & R in the form of a good nap.

    11. Dog door/fenced in yard (except perhaps in the big city). Another idea, if you live in the suburbs and have a reasonable-sized fenced in yard, is to fit a dog door to allow your dog to come and go at will.

    There are many ways that we can try and make our dogs’ lives more interesting and engaging during our absence. Some dogs will fare quite well with the application of just a few of the measures listed above. Nevertheless, the wisdom of getting a highly social pet like a dog must be considered if you know in advance that you will be required to be apart from that pet for many hours each day. It is preferable to choose the right time in your life to acquire a dog and the right breed for your lifestyle – a time when you are in a position to spend sufficient quality time with your pet and not wind up a latchkey parent. For those of you for whom this advice is too late, take heart, adopt the some of the big E’s, and look out for your old pal.

training

The Dog Nanny Classes

What’s The philosophy of natural dogmanship

The philosophy of natural dogmanship (natural dog/canine behavior).

What exactly does that mean?

Simply put, it is the art of learning how dogs/canines naturally behave amongst one another in order to communicate with the dog/canine in its own language.

It takes a lot of studying to fully understand and apply this concept as it requires full comprehension of how dogs/canine communicate, their social make-up, rules and policies of the Dog/Canine world.  (Marcia Murray-Stoof aka “The Dog Nanny” attended University to learn all about Canine Behvaiour).

Many people try to get their dogs to understand human communication and this is where the messages get mixed.  There are many things/ways we communicate as Humans the just do not translate into Dog/Canine.

Dogs are no less complicated than humans and while it is difficult and sometimes impossible to make a dog understand human, humans can learn the language of the dog if they open their minds to the idea. Marcia  teaches you, the basics in Dog/Canine and explains what we naturally do as humans that cause miss communication.

Because dogs are so closely bonded with the human species, and have learnt a great deal about how we communicate, most humans forget, or do not think about, their Dogs/Canine behaviour as natural instincts.

Dogs have a natural instinct to want structure, rules and boundaries. They want to know where they stand among their pack/family and believe it or not, they want to know the rules and they need consistency with those rules. It is actually more cruel to assume your dog is human, overlooking its natural wants and needs. All dog behavior issues stem from humans who are not practicing natural dogmanship/Canine Communication: not providing what the dog needs in its life, from exercise, both mental and physical, to the leadership it craves. What something means to a human may mean the total opposite to a dog. Dogs all around the world receive mixed signals from humans. Any dog that misbehaves is missing something in its life. A dog’s temperament is often a large portion of the owner’s ability to understand him and give him what he instinctually needs as a canine animal. There are no bad dogs…just uneducated owners. And yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s NEVER too late to turn a dog’s behavior around.

Things to Consider for Dogs Riding in Cars

 

There’s nothing quite like seeing the joy a dog experiences when he gets to go for a ride in the car. But, for dogs riding in cars, there are safety and health issues you should be aware of before you put the car into drive.

The mere mention of the word “car” to your average canine, often sends him into paroxysms of joy. Many dogs quickly associate “car” with that wonderful sensation of being carried at great speeds, with the wind blowing through their hair.

But, there are things to consider for dogs riding in cars, such as ensuring that your dog is comfortable, calm, and, of course, safe.

Feeling Queasy
Just like you, dogs can get motion sickness from being in the car. Many people are aware of the nauseating signs of motion sickness and the effect it can have on a relaxing vacation. But, did you know that motion sickness could also affect your dog? A sick dog is not a happy traveling companion.

Motion sickness is an illness associated with motion — as in a car, a boat, or an airplane. Since vacations typically involve traveling, dogs prone to motion sickness don’t always enjoy the trek to the final destination.

The cause of motion sickness is stimulation of the vestibular apparatus located within the inner ear. When this apparatus is stimulated, your dog feels dizzy and nausea may develop. Usually, the signs of motion sickness stop when the vehicle stops moving. Dogs afflicted with motion sickness begin drooling, feel nauseated, and may even develop vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog is known to experience motion sickness that is not easily treated, you may want to reconsider bringing him along on vacation.
Buckle Up
When driving, a seat belt can be the thing that saves your life. This goes for dogs, too. Giving dogs free range in the car is unsafe and can be deadly. Traveling with your dog can be made safer and easier by the use of automotive restraints. Like you, your dog is safer when he is properly secured in the vehicle in the event of an accident or unexpected distraction.

We’ve all seen dogs riding in cars and trucks that had free range of the vehicle. This is a tremendous risk for injury. Dogs that sit in their owner’s laps or bounce from seat to seat can disrupt your field of vision or attention span. Hanging his head out of the window can cause serious eye injuries. A sudden stop with your dog in the back of an open vehicle can send him flying into traffic. Or he may make the decision to jump out at something he finds appealing with no warning.

Even dogs who are well behaved in the vehicle benefit from proper restraints. In the event of an accident, a restraint can keep your dog within your vehicle. Many dogs will run away if they are disoriented or injured. The last thing you want is to have to look for your scared or injured dog in unfamiliar surroundings. Check out your local pet supply store for dog safe automotive restraints.

Driving Dangers
A fun car ride with your dog can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not careful. Be aware of common dangers that can occur with your pooch in the car.

Dogs love to go for car rides. For many dogs, their favorite words are “bye-bye.” Some dogs jump, prance, smile, and bark with delight at the thought of a car ride. How many times have you seen dogs hanging out the car window? Or on the owners lap looking as happy as can be?

Yes, going for a ride in the car can be fun, but driving with dogs can also be very dangerous to both you and your dog. There has been several cases of owners that were in an accident — caused by their dog — in which they were injured, the car they hit had some severe injuries, and their dogs were killed.

There are some very common dangers and causes of injuries that can be prevented — and if you understand them, it will help keep you and your dog safe.

The First Ride
How should you transport your new puppy home in the car? This is probably one of the first questions you ask yourself after you have signed off on your new puppy. Should he be transported in a crate? Should he be allowed to gallivant around between the seats? Should he be on your lap? Is it better to have him in the front or back? What are the issues? What are we trying to achieve and what risks are we trying to avoid?

For starters, make sure the pup has had an opportunity to urinate and/or defecate before embarking on the ride. No solid food should be given to the pup for 2-3 hours prior to a short trip. It may be necessary to bring food for the pup on longer trips. If a pup is not nauseous or fearful, he may want to eat.

Have the pup ride in the rear seat of the car on one person’s lap (yes, you need two people to make this work). He should be rested on or wrapped in a familiar blanket and have at least one familiar toy to play with. Use a crate for older, confident, non crate-shy pups. Again, supply a familiar blanket and toy. Whatever you do, don’t allow the pup in the front seat and don’t allow him to perambulate freely. Quite apart from any possible injury to the pup, he may become a missile in the event of an accident.

Be Prepared
If your dog suffers an injury while you’re driving together, it’s important to be prepared. Emergencies can occur anytime and the best thing to do is to be ready for anything. Having a first-aid kit ready will help to reduce anxiety if an emergency does happen. Keep the kit readily available and periodically check to make sure all the items are up to date and present. A small plastic toolbox or fishing tackle box works well to hold all the necessary equipment.
On the outside of the box, write your name, address, and telephone number in case you lose it. Also include the telephone number of your veterinarian as well as the telephone number of a local veterinary emergency facility.

Once the emergency information is complete, it’s a good idea to have separate information sheets for each pet. Include a photo of each pet with the name, age, breed, sex, identification (micro chipping information), and any health problems. This can help if your pet is lost or if someone unfamiliar with your pet is needed to care for him.

The Dog Nanny Website